Thursday, November 12, 2015

Corporate Counsel: 5 Tips for Perfecting Your PowerPoint Presentations

By Lisa A. Pach

Whether in the courtroom or the boardroom, PowerPoint can enhance your presentations. However, there are five simple tips that can make your presentations even more effective:

1. Keep it simple.

Keep your background simple, and use the same one throughout your presentation. A white background with black text is not recommended because it is difficult to read. Instead, use a blue or black background.

Use consistent font size and color for headlines, subheads, and body text. Typically, a 26-point font size is the minimum recommended for body text.

Limit your topic to one main idea per slide, with no more than six bullets.

Use words or phrases, rather than showing your entire presentation on the slides.

Do not read!

2. Make it visual.

Pictures, graphs, or charts ― with a few keywords ― can often communicate what words alone cannot. Use one image per slide, unless making a comparison. Make sure you have permission to use the image.

3. Be prepared.

Practice on the computer you will use for your presentation and familiarize yourself with the remote. Plug in your computer during your presentation, rather than relying on your battery. In addition, turn off screensavers and dialogue boxes.

For courtroom presentations, call ahead to determine whether visual presentations are permitted. Similarly, check with your mediator to confirm presentations are allowed during opening statements.

Finally, be prepared for the occasional computer glitch and for your presentation to function incorrectly. You may want to have a backup computer available.

4. Make it readable. 

Consider the room where you will be presenting. View your presentation from all angles to ensure everyone will be able to see the slides. If you are presenting to a jury, ensure the judge, opposing counsel, and their client can see the screen, or at least your monitor.

5. Avoid distractions. 

PowerPoint provides an assortment of transitions that can swirl and dissolve, and objects that can appear by spinning, shrinking, etc. Use these sparingly, if at all. If you are using videos, keep them short.

There are simple techniques you can use after you are finished making a particular point and want the audience to focus on you rather than the slide. Press the B key on your keyboard while in PowerPoint mode to turn your screen to black, or the W key to turn the screen to white.

By incorporating these tips, your PowerPoint slides will enhance your presentation and leave your audience with a memorable and favorable impression.

Sources: Beth McCormack, Avoiding "Death by PowerPoint" and Other Ways to Up Your Presentation Game, 40 Vt. B.J. 25 (Winter 2015); Dennis Kennedy, PowerPoint Presentations: Ten Tips to Make Them More Powerful, The Advocate 12 (May 2006); Joel Simberg, Displaying Digital Media During Opening Statements: Tactics, Techniques, and Pitfalls, 60 DePaul L. Rev. 789, 800 (2011).